Improperly using tools can cause more problems than it solves. How many times have you seen somebody using a screwdriver as a pry bar? Or concrete blocks being used to support scaffolding instead of jacks and pads? Or someone using a five-gallon bucket as a stepladder? These are just a few examples of misused equipment that can result in injury on-the-job or during DIY projects at home. Here we’ll outline some precautions you can take at home and at work.
Common Precautions for Hands-On Projects
Safety first! Whenever taking on a project that involves manual labor, there’s always an inherent risk of bodily harm. Here are a few simple steps you can take to protect yourself.
- Use insulated tools – This is of utmost importance if you’re going to be working with or near electricity. Insulated tools have rubber handles that protect from electric shock and provide easier grip. Not sure if your tools are insulated? Then assume they aren’t! If they are, they will have the universal “1,000 Volts” symbol on the handle, so check before you begin.
- Hammers aren’t screwdrivers – Use each tool how it’s meant to be used. Don’t cut corners by using a wrench handle as a hammer or using a screwdriver as a pry bar. Improperly using tools like this is not only dangerous, but it’s also bad for the durability of your tools.
- Always wear safety gear – When taking on a project, always wear safety glasses. If you’re doing heavy lifting, consider a lifting belt and gloves. Assess each step of your project and anticipate the necessary safety equipment before you begin.
- Proper maintenance – Ensure that your tools are sturdy and in working order before you begin. You may think a sharp saw or knife sounds more dangerous than a dull one, but dull blades actually cause more accidents because of their propensity to slip.
How To Use Common Household Tools
- Hammer – When using a hammer, the further back you hold the handle, the more force you’ll put on the object. So, if you’re hammering a nail, start with precise, lighter hits while gripping the handle close to the hammer’s head. Once the nail is in place, drive it in by gripping the hammer at the handle’s end. Swing from the wrist for control and from the elbow for power. The material you’re working with may require a different type of hammer/mallet.
- Screwdriver – First, make sure you have the correct type of head and size that matches the screws you’re working with – phillips, flat, torque, etc. Grip the handle with one hand and grip the tip of the screwdriver, near the screw, with the other. Apply force and twist until the screw catches a grip, then ensure it goes in straight.
- Stepladder – Never set up a stepladder on uneven ground. Always ensure the hinged metal braces are completely straight and locked in. Heed the printed warning on the stepladder to not step higher than recommended! Standing higher than that point increases the odds that you will topple. Do not leave tools on the ladder. The last thing anyone needs is a heavy wrench falling onto their head. Read “8 Tips to Prevent Stepladder Accidents.”
- Hand Saws – First, make sure the saw is sharpened, the blade is straight and has the proper amount of tension. This will make your life easier and your work cleaner. Before you start hacking away, be sure to measure (check it twice!) and draw a pencil line on the place you’re going to cut. Make one soft, perfectly straight cut along the line, hold your elbows in by your side and angle the saw properly. Then proceed to slowly saw all the way through along the cut you’ve just made.
The hazards involved with hand tools may be overlooked, but they are commonly used and can cause serious injury. Don’t miss tips on safety and selecting the best tool in our blog, “Working Safely with Hand Tools.”
How Do I Prepare For a Project?
Whenever you’re preparing for a project – especially if it requires specialized tools – be sure to pre-plan and think about which tools you’ll need instead of using makeshift tools and equipment.
- Break it down. Before you begin, break down your project into simple steps. Do some research if necessary and figure out which tools you will need for each step.
- Determine hazards. By anticipating potential hazards before you begin, you’ll be able to plan for safe procedures and equipment while working, instead of thinking on-the-fly.
- Check it over. You may be surprised to learn how many people are injured each year simply from using old ladders and equipment. Once you have your equipment laid out, be sure to inspect it to ensure everything is in working order. Is that ladder old and rickety? Find a replacement. Dull saw blade? Time to run to the hardware store.